If this is the last month of Andrew Benintendi in a Kansas City Royals uniform, he seems poised to eliminate any doubt that he’s returned to being the hitter he showed he could be early in his career with the Boston Red Sox — and the hitter that Royals officials projected he’d be when they traded for him in February of last year.
Benintendi celebrated his 28th birthday by going 2 for 3 with two walks, three runs scored and an RBI in a 7-4 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday night. And he narrowly missed a home run on a ball that hooked just shy of the foul pole in right field.
His last at-bat of the night, an RBI double with two outs in the ninth inning, provided a crucial insurance run. The Royals had led by just one run going into the ninth, and they’d coughed up leads in back-to-back games against the Astros.
“His splitter is his go-to against lefties, but he still has a really good fastball,” Benintendi said of his at-bat in the ninth against Astros reliever Hector Neris. “I was just trying to keep it simple, dump something in there, and I got a splitter up in the zone and put a good swing on it.”
A Gold Glove winner in left field last season, Benintendi is in the final year of his contract and can be a free agent at the end of this season. He figures to garner a lot of interest from potential suitors on the trade market as the MLB trade deadline approaches.
Benintendi has now hit safely in 16 of his last 20 games.
“I’m just finally, I think, putting everything together that I’ve learned the past few years,” Benintendi said. “I learned a lot last year and incorporating that into my swing this year. I’m using my legs a lot better this year than I have ever.”
He entered the day ranked among the American League leaders in multi-hit games (tied for second, 28), hits (third, 92) and batting average (tied for sixth, .313).
“He’s been fun to watch this year,” Royals first baseman Hunter Dozier said of Benintendi. “We joke around that he’s just a walk and two hits every game. And I think he had two walks today and two knocks. It’s just what he’s been doing every day. I’m happy for him. Great to see his success.”
Royals manager Mike Matheny pointed to Benintendi’s tendency to take walks, hit singles and not hunt home runs or get too big with his swing as a sign of maturity. Matheny said the type of hitter Benintendi has become is the type that puts himself in serious contention for a batting title.
“When he gets off track just a little bit, he makes real good adjustments in-game, but also from game to game,” Matheny said. “If he has one day where he’s not hitting anything hard, he’ll look around the field. He’ll take what they’re giving him. He’s just one of those throwback hitters where he’s not trying to fall into any one pattern. You can’t pitch him any one way. He’s always thinking.”
Mathey said to hit the ball as hard as Benintendi has on a consistent basis lately, a player has to “have some gifts.”